Building the Light Modulator

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Materials needed

  • One bottle of glue for each table
  • Stack of drawing paper
  • Cameras
  • Scissors
  • Masking tape
  • Magazine pages
  • Card stock
  • String
  • Literally, anything else you feel like adding.

Begin by distributing one pair of scissors and sheet of drawing paper to each student. Discuss what a “structure” is: self-supporting, has an inside and an outside, typically one can see through it, it has form. Using only paper and scissors, each student has five minutes to create three simple and small self-supporting structures. Encourage students to be as creative as possible.

  1. While students work, distribute the bottles of glue and another piece of copy paper. Now students have three minutes to cut paper into approximately 1 inch strips. Using glue, they should manipulate the strips and add curved planes to the structures.
  2. Instruction: “Stop, wherever you are at, regardless of completion! Everyone stand and move four seats to the left.” Now students have a new set of structures in front of them. They have one minute to add two new openings.
  3. At each table, have students “trade” one of the three structures. Now students have four minutes to combine the three structures into one self-supporting structure.
  4. Pass out strips of tape. Instruct students to “change” the tape in some way and add it into the structure. Number off, 1 – 2 – 1 – 2, etc. Have only the number 2’s move two empty seats to the left. Pass out the cards. Have students cut out several geometric shapes (rectangle, circle, triangle). Each shape must be folded at least once and permanently added to the structure. They have three minutes before you add the next step.
  5. Pass out pieces of string. Students must somehow alter the string: cut it, shred it, etc. and permanently add it to the structure. They have two minutes.
  6. Instruction: “Stop, wherever you are at, regardless of completion!” Have the number 1’s move two empty chairs to the right. Pass out magazine pages. Students should continue working with the geometric shapes and after have distributing the magazine pages instruct students to cut out several complex organic shapes to be added into the structure. Give students a short amount of time to do so – art teachers can add, subtract, whatever; the point is to keep kids on their toes, thinking, and quickly resolving visual challenges.
  7. Give each table about ten minutes to figure out how to combine, manipulate, and adjust the three structures into a single form.
  8. Have the entire class combine all forms into one large structure.

Have each learner photograph the most interesting close ups, not only of their own structures, but also those of others. Have learners use a single light source in a darkened room, which may be moved and rearranged as necessary. Each learner should make at least ten reference sketches from which to to work. Copy reference photographs to student laptops for later use in further development of sketches.


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